TR Review: The Clone Wars

Okay, guys, you know the drill. The short version: it could have been worse. Not a ton worse, but certainly there was more room for awfulness. However, I can wholeheartedly recommend you simply wait until the movie airs as the first three TV episodes?not only will you save the money, there?s a decent chance you?ll enjoy it more. Now, with that out of the way, hit the jump for the lengthy, spoiler-filled full review.

If you were waiting for me for to tear the Clone Wars apart in an insane rage, I?m sorry to disappoint. Unlike, say, Indy 4, my expectations for Clone Wars could not have been lower. So by not shitting on me constantly throughout its 90 run time, Clone Wars did somewhat exceed my expectations. Now, that?s not to say it was good, or that I liked it, especially. But rather than an F, I can see giving it a C- or a D.

Let me put it another way?at its best, Clone Wars had me thinking, ?Well, this isn?t terrible.? While that?s kind of a pleasant surprise for someone who expected to be tortured the entire time, compared to any of the ?real? Star Wars movies, is it wrong to want more than “not terrible”? Even the prequels?whatever faults you did or did not find in them?showed us a lot of new worlds, new villains, new battles, etc.

But in Clone Wars, there?s absolutely nothing we haven?t seen before. Clones fighting droids? Anakin fighting Dooku? Anakin and Obi-Wan bickering? Jabba the Hutt? All stuff we?ve seen before. Besides what might be an early prototype for the B-Wing and an AT-TE walking up a cliff?neither of which is that astounding?it was all shit we?ve seen before. Or worse, it was new shit we didn?t want to see. Unless you?ve desperately wanted to know what a Hutt baby looks like (thus forcing you to think about Hutt sex), there?s not a single one of the moments of awe in Clone Wars that the Star Wars movies have usually provided us.

Worse, the movie doesn?t matter in the slightest?by the end, the status quo is maintained, meaning you could skip the movie entirely and not have missed anything. Now, part of that is the problem with setting it in-between two movies; you can?t do anything too drastic because the past and future have been previously set. But that doesn?t mean nothing has to happen. There?s absolutely zero characterization in this Clone Wars; no moments of growth, hell, no moments of Anakin even looking perturbed. You?d think, on his journey to the dark side, there might be a moment of him being a tiny but evil, but no. He simply sasses back to his new padawan Ahsoka.

Speaking of, Ahsoka straddles the fine line between sassy and outright annoying, and spends time on both sides?about half her banter with Anakin is okay, and half is pure shit?particularly her calling him ?skyguy??which set my teeth on edge. Aren?t padawans trained not to give their masters lame nicknames? It just flies in the face of everything Lucas has presented about the Jedi order, if I may be that nerdy.

As for the flamboyantly homosexual Hutt?.holy fucking shit. Ziro the Hutt is even worse than you could imagine. I actually prayed for my head to explode during his speaking scenes, partially to escape from the pain, and partially because I assume someone would have to tell George Lucas that he created a character so wretched that it killed a man. I just can?t conceive how, in 2008, Lucas would make a conscious decision to have a character?any character?talk like five terrible stereotypes in one. Worse, no one at Lucasfilm had the balls to tell him what a terrible fucking idea it was.

Aside from Ziro, the film?s biggest problem is that it?s so clearly three TV episodes strung together. There?s zero reason to see it in the theaters. First episode?Anakin takes out a deflector shield. Second episode?Anakin and Ahsoka rescue Jabba?s kid, who they refer to only as ?Stinky.? Third episode?amidst turmoil, Anakin and Ahsoka return Stinky to his dad. You?ll know exactly when each episodes ends and when each new episodes begins. You?ll also hear the same information repeated a dozen times, since they want to recap things from the previous episode. This is sheer laziness on Lucasfilm?s part?I would sincerely doubt that anything was edited to make this a movie; it really is just three episodes strung together with absolutely zero effort done to turn them into an actual film. It?s so galling that Lucas cares so little about the ?movie,? when kids and us emotionally stunted adult SW fans care so damn much.

And regarding the character designs: They look like wood. No, seriously?every character model has extra pigmentation on their clothes, their flesh, whatever to make them look like they have been carved out of actual wood. Lucas has gone on record as saying that we wanted to make Clone Wars look a bit like the old Thunderbirds puppet show from the ?60s, and in fact, the characters move like they?re puppets. Some of you have claimed that since Lucas intended the characters to be this way, it?s fine.

Fuck you people. The fact that Lucas is intentionally making his 2008 cartoon look like a ?60s puppet show is fucking ludicrous. It?s another terrible idea that no one told Lucas he shouldn?t do. The audiences of 2008 do not want their CG movies to look like ancient puppet TV shows. Who would possibly think otherwise? Apparently, George Lucas does?or again, he does not care one iota what you want.

I have one last argument to make, and it?s for the benefit of all of you who have defended Clone Wars?and many other animated films?because they?re ?intended for kids.? This is a bullshit argument. Just because something is a kids? film, that doesn?t mean it has freedom to be stupid, or to suck outright. Is it hard to make a film that is equaling appealing to both kids and adults? Absolutely. But it can be done, and I don?t I?m being unreasonable in wanting that now. You know why? Because the original trilogy was like that. Parts of prequels were like that. And most importantly, the first Clone Wars cartoon was like that.

Yes, Genndy Tartakovsky?s Clone Wars was awesome for young and old alike, and I can?t suggest more strongly that you skipped watching the new Clone Wars (at least until it hits TV) and go find the two cartoon Clone Wars DVDs. They actually made me squeal with nerdy delight, a feeling I never even came close to achieving during the new movie. They were loaded with awesome things Star Wars fans had never seen before. A Hammerhead-alien Jedi? Mace Windu taking an army of super-droids out on his own (even using the Force to remove every single screw in one of ?em), shown above? A lightsaber being used underwater, or even more awesomely, in the rain? All in there, and all amazing. And even though they were only 5 or 15 minutes long, Tartakosky managed to have battles that were far more epic than anything seen in the new movie, villains that were genuinely scary, and most importantly, there was actual character development in terms of Anakin slipping ever more closely into the Dark Side. And it was certainly for kids.

The fact that this clear, obvious example of how awesome the new Clone Wars could have been?should have been?has existed for years, and Lucas and his team ignored every single part of it is what makes Clone Wars so maddening. It?s like Tartakovsky drew Lucas a map, and Lucas burned it, and just drove at top speed straight off the nearest cliff.

But, hey?it could have been worse.